Exclusive: Browne: perm sec turnover ‘problematic’

The current rate of turnover of permanent secretaries is “problematic”, the government’s lead non-executive director Lord Browne has warned in an exclusive interview with Civil Service World. Browne’s comments come in a period that has seen the surprise departures of two permanent secretaries and a host of other senior civil servants.

By Civil Service World

08 Aug 2012

“There’s a big turnover” in permanent secretaries, he warned, adding that “turnover which is not planned is always problematic. Every time people change, there is an increase in risk for a period of time because there’s not enough knowledge. People have to understand what they’re doing and, during the process of getting up to full speed, there’s always an increase in risk.”
Browne said that this is something that concerns the government’s non-executives. He added that “they’re very keen to make sure that moves are planned. They come from a background where, at board level, one of the most important things you deal with is succession planning and the planned move of executives.”

Speaking to CSW on Monday, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude admitted that “succession planning hasn’t been as brilliant as it might have been,” but said that “there’s been a very high degree of continuity” and that some departures are “by mutual agreement, as it were.”

Browne said the Treasury is in a particularly bad position. “We’re concerned that the rate of turnover for some departments has been high for a long time – it’s still quite high at the Treasury, for example,” he said.

He said that there mustn’t be “barriers” that prevent civil servants from remaining in the public sector, and called for a “living wage” for civil servants, adding that “it doesn’t have to be grand; it just has to be right.”

Read the full interview with Browne

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